What drives my passion for watches is not only the representation of time – and the complications – and the intricate dials – but the faces of those who feel the same. Especially when you get them talking. No matter what they do for a living, or who they are day-to-day, their interest in watches shapes them and their professions in so many intrinsic, unifying ways.
I’m always intrigued to speak to someone new about their fascination with watches – and what makes their love unique.
Here’s a profile of a man who is an aficionado of watches, an accomplished American Bass-Baritone opera-star, and a rising star on Broadway.
David Pittsinger – a modern watch collector with classic tastes – who brings his love for watches onto the stage with him.
Molly McDermott: Tell me how your profession and talent has enhanced and enabled your love of watches?
David Pittsinger: Opera singers, by trade, travel the world and visit old cities, flush with culture and tradition. Spending time in places and cities with deep watch cultures has deepened my love and respect and understanding of this traditional artform.
Visiting Switzerland and Germany especially, two great nations that have contributed vastly to watchmaking advancements, I saw first-hand how passionate other cultures are about timepieces. There, more so than here in the U.S., I saw how watches are esteemed as great fashion pieces and how essential they are to a man’s wardrobe. Especially in Hamburg and Geneva, where the top watch brands are found on nearly every corner. I came to appreciate the diversity and distinctions between the greatest brands and saw how there is one for every walk of life.
MM: You represent a traditional artform that is rich in culture. How do you see similarities between your art and traditional watchmaking? How do you see the future of watchmaking? Future of opera?
DP: There is very much a circuitous route from a culture of opera to a culture of watches.
Watchmakers and performers of the arts are stylists. In order to survive, both need to embrace constant stylization and refinement. Refinement allows people to see something old in a new light. And by doing this, younger generations will be quicker to embrace watches…and opera.
Opera is not a dying artform; it’s a return to a civilized way of living. For me, watches share the same sense of refinement and elegance. They recreate, beautifully, the gift of time.
MM: Tell me – How do watches fit into your life? Are you unique in your love for watches?
DP: Watches are a part of my daily life, as watches can be the best expressions of your personality. In the Opera world, there are many watch aficionados. Owning and being knowledgeable about fine timepieces shows that you have “arrived.” Watches then become the ultimate status symbol amongst artful people who are like-minded and appreciate genuine craftsmanship.
The attrition rate is huge amongst opera singers, so it is a small, close-knit community. With such a small group of creative people, many share the passion and freely discuss and compare. While I love Omega and Rolex, many of my associates are interested in Breitlings and Panerai models.
Part of the reason I love Omega is that my father gave me his 1950’s Omega Tank watch, so I’ve always felt a fondness for the brand. It represents so much more than just a brand, as my father loved this watch and passed it on to me.
As for my Rolex Cellini Danaos, purchased in Geneva, I love the Sinatra-style qualities of this model. Classic. Smooth.
Like a throwback to the old days, where all men wore bespoke suits… Wearing a good watch will be in again – and soon. We will start getting away from the strictly flashy styles and return to more heirloom-styled timepieces.
MM: How do you connect your love of opera to your love of watches?
DP: When researching a role, I always look beyond the character and also examine who constructed the piece. While researching the plays of Figaro, I became fascinated by Pierre Beaumarchais. I learned that Beaumarchais was not only a revolutionary writer, whose plays were laced with social commentary much to the chagrin of his counterparts, but also an avid watchmaker. I was shocked to learn that many of Beaumarchais’ patents for movements are still utilized today!
Once I looked further into the movements that Beaumarchais manufactured, it all made sense to me. This love of intricacy and parts working together for a greater piece of art.
MM: It’s a fact that America as a whole doesn’t have an appetite for watches like European or Asian industrialized nations. Would you like to see that change? And how can you as a performer and member of culture (and people like you) help that?
DP: I see the change happening slowly but surely. There are brands that are adapting and doing the right things to survive.
Artists and professional athletes with watch contracts definitely help sell products. As brand ambassadors, they not only share the watchmaker’s core values but can also strongly influence others through their product endorsement.
It is nice to have a passion – something to dream about – that enhances the quality of life. A quality timepiece is an expression of passion that reflects this desire – intensely.
MM: What was your first watch, and who gave it to you? What was significant about this piece, and how did it, and does it, fit into your collection?
DP: My father bought me my first watch in the first grade — a big, sturdy Seiko. He taught me how to wear it and regard it as a valuable object and tool. I then bought my first chronograph with a solid rubber strap by selling seeds and Christmas cards through a promotion on the back pages of Boys’ Life Magazine. That started my love for watches, and I have since marked moments throughout my life by purchasing fine watches.
MM: What do you look for in a watch? And, if you had to name your Top 5 Brands, which would they be?
DP: I focus on versatility and visual appeal. A watch must look good, as it will be worn on your wrist daily. It must be a great investment piece that has some emotional attachment. Be innovative, sleek and classy. And be able to gracefully transition from stage to dinners to yachting.
Because that is who I am – I perform on stage – I appreciate fine wine and great cuisine – and I love the ocean.
As for brands that I identify with – I am very much intrigued by Breguet and Franck Muller and Patek Philippe. I am also a satisfied owner of both Rolex and Omega.
MM: Is there something special about your watch love that assists or compliments your career? And conversely, what about your career furthers or shapes your passion for watches?
DP: Being that my profession takes me around the world for performances, I need a dual time model. My Rolex GMT II Master has a 24 hour hand and an independently adjustable 12 hour hand, allowing me to simultaneously check the time in any two time zones. When traveling between Nice and Monaco and Brussels and Hamburg, being able to track the time in my current time zone, as well as where my family is, allows me to keep in touch while traveling and not wake up the family while doing so!
I have come to love the elegance of Minute Repeaters, and am fascinated with the construction of these movements.
Being a singer, I also need a Central Seconds hand to determine tempo and metronomic timing during rehearsals.
MM: How do watches fit into some of your most profound memories?
DP: Watches have been purchased or gifted to me during milestone or touchstone moments throughout my life. So these watches then help those memories stay alive and relevant throughout my daily life.
If you think about it – it is not an incredibly extravagant act to buy a watch to mark an occasion. Whether it be your career or personal life, purchasing a watch to mark an occasion or celebrate an event then allows you to take that pride and memory with you always.
My first important watch purchase was when I graduated from Yale and had my first opera contract. I purchased a stainless steel Rolex Submariner because this model is very sturdy, durable, classy, and ocean ready.
I purchased my Omega Planet Ocean to mark my Broadway debut in South Pacific – I felt that this would be an appropriate model for both my role as Emile de Becque and fit into my daily life. People know me as an opera singer, but I love the ocean and being out at sea. So the Omega Planet Ocean has such a great impact on people’s perceptions of me. All of a sudden, so many other layers of my personality and life are exposed, just by looking at or inquiring about my watch.
MM: How would you encourage younger generations to embrace watches? How can they express themselves, as you have?
DP: You must know HOW to wear a watch – whether it be by owning several to swap out per occasion – and then being able to evaluate which watch is most appropriate – or by owning just one, classic, dynamic model.
It all depends on how much it means to you to wear something.
And realize that a watch can represent memories – and memories are worth much more and hold their value longer, than say investing in the stock market. A watch is a much more personal, more versatile investment that you can carry with you wherever you go. It’s worth finding a good watch that reflects you – as a whole.
As your tastes change, buy a watch within your means to reflect your style and where you are in life.
But make sure you buy a good watch – take great care of it – and appreciate what has gone into it, and what you will experience wearing it. Hold it close – when you take it off, it is ceremonial – remember what happened while wearing it… This reverence reinvents your passion for the watch just as when you first bought it – the more you wear it, the more it becomes a part of you.
A bit more about David
American Bass-Baritone David Pittsinger is one of the most sought after artists of his generation. His celebrated performances have made him a favorite with critics, audiences, and conductors alike. Pittsinger’s 2009 season began with his Broadway debut as Emile de Becque in the Tony award-winning production of South Pacific, and his critically acclaimed performances of Enobarbus in Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra at Carnegie Hall.
Mr. Pittsinger has received “Artist of the Year” Awards from New York City Opera (Don Giovanni, Figaro, and Orlando), Pittsburgh Opera (Boito’s Mefistofele and Gounod’s Faust) as well as “Outstanding Alumnus Award” from his undergraduate alma mater University of Connecticut. He also holds a Master’s Degree from Yale University.
Born in Hartford, Mr. Pittsinger now resides with his wife, Patricia Schuman, and their two children on the Connecticut shoreline, where he enjoys fishing, sailing, and golfing.